Learning to write is a big task for young children because it involves three separate processes:
- Recognizing that writing is a way to communicate.
- Learning the mechanical aspects of writing, e.g., learning to form letters, gaining the fine motor skills to make those letters, and understanding technical aspects such as that writing runs from left to right and top to bottom, and we put spaces between words.
- Organizing thoughts and ideas into writing.
Some kids are really motivated to learn to write; others, less so. Most children start writing by making letter-like marks or drawing pictures. From there, they move to more refined marks, and finally words. Children often write words phonetically, the way they sound (inventive spelling). All of this is typical.
(NONTRADITIONAL) TIPS FOR TEACHING PRESCHOOLERS TO WRITE
Give kids opportunity to do things for themselves. Self-help skills are great in so many ways, including supporting early writing. Activities such as spreading butter on bread, peeling clementines, opening and filling water bottles, and putting on socks help kids to strengthen muscles and build the dexterity that support writing.
Stock up on all kinds of creative supplies - not just writing instruments. Hole punching, using scissors, and playing with playdough help kids to build the fine motor skills and strength they'll need to write. Other suggestions include: sculpting with clay, making jewelry or beading, cardboard box activities, painting, and using chalk.
Building with Legos, Lincoln Logs, and other building toys. Unstructured building toys also foster creativity, which kids can tap into later when they start drawing and writing on their own. Offer notebooks or clipboards if your child wants to make notes or stories about their drawings.
Unstructured outdoor play. Unstructured outdoor play is so important for healthy development, including literacy and writing development. Angela Hanscom, founder of TimberNook, says "In order to have good fine motor skills, you really need a strong sense of body awareness and overall strength.”